Learn a second language? Nope. Emoji instead

The Oxford Dictionary announced that its “Word of the Year” for 2015 was the “Tears of Joy” emoji. That’s correct: a yellow cartoon smiley face with blue tears emerging from the eyes is the word of the year.

Emoji are ubiquitous these days. The emoji evolved from emoticons, those primitive computer keystrokes indicating emotions like happiness, goofiness and anger. Today, the emoji language is vast, including food icons, vehicle icons, world flags and hand gestures. They’ve been used primarily on social media, but they’re now so pervasive that you’re not even noticing. Domino’s is allowing customers to tweet a pizza slice emoji to place an order. Ride-sharing company Uber is testing emoji as a rating system in markets like Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, American students are increasingly less likely to learn a second language. A 2013 survey by the Modern Language Association showed a 6.7 percent decline in higher-education foreign-language enrollments from 2009 to 2013. The same survey showed that only 7 percent of college students were enrolled in a language course.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of Americans have used emoji in professional communication, a Kelton Global survey reports.

By recognizing an emoji as “Word of the Year,” Oxford could simply be capitalizing on a trend; however, emoji are so pervasive that it’s only just the beginning.

TRENDPOST: You’re seeing the dawn of a new world language. Emoticons have been part of technological vocabulary for more than a decade, and the emoji language is simply an evolutionary advancement. More retailers will use emoji to engage customers, especially millennials and those younger than 35.

Beyond this, emoji will become a primary way for people to express themselves. There’s no need for pure emotion when the right face is just a tap of the smartphone away. Look for the emoji language to expand with more characters and icons, creating sublanguages that may emerge within the next year or so.

Tim Malcolm

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